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If claims can be made this early in the season, then it’s probably not a stretch to say that Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon is rounding into one of the best young starters in baseball.
Taillon, who will make his third start Saturday when the Pirates (9-4) face the Miami Marlins (4-9) at Marlins Park, is 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA.
Miami broke a three-game losing streak with a 7-2 win over Pittsburgh in the series opener Friday.
Taillon is coming off one of the gems so far this season. He threw a complete-game, one-hit shutout Sunday in a 5-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds in Pittsburgh.
“He was sharp. He was focused. He was committed,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who was not tempted to pull Taillon at any point despite the fact that no Pittsburgh starter had lasted beyond six innings.
“I just wanted to give him the opportunity to do it.”
Taillon, 26, had not made it into the ninth in his first two seasons, but his fastball command was too much for the Reds.
“It may very well have been the best fastball performance we’ve seen (from him),” Hurdle said.
Eighty of Taillon’s 110 pitches that game were fastballs.
“My two-seamer was good all day,” Taillon said. “We tried to do something different, different sequence. At the end, we were just saying, ‘Here it is. Here’s the two-seamer. Come and hit it.’”
Cincinnati had no answer. Taillon struck out seven, walked two and hit one batter.
That followed a home-opening start in which Taillon beat Minnesota, going 5 1/3 innings with two runs, four hits, nine strikeouts and no walks.
In 2017, Taillon was 8-7 with a 4.44 ERA in 25 starts, but that season was interrupted by time on the disabled list while he recovered from testicular cancer surgery. Also that season, Taillon made his only career start against Miami, picking up the win by giving up a run in five innings.
His counterpart Saturday, right-hander Trevor Richards (0-1, 8.64), will be making his third career start, first against the Pirates, after making his major league career April 2.
Richards, 24, said he was more comfortable in his second start — he allowed three runs, six hits, with three walks and two strikeouts in four innings against Philadelphia — than in his debut, when he took a loss against Boston, giving up five runs and eight hits, with a walk and five strikeouts, in 4 1/3 innings.
“More into my routine,” he said of his April 8 appearance. “Not as much nerves. The first one was out of the way and I was able to settle a little bit. Came out shaky a little bit early but felt good as I went along.”
Miami made a change in its outfield pool Friday, selecting J.B. Shuck from Triple-A New Orleans and optioning Braxton Lee to New Orleans.
Shuck was 4-for-4 with two runs scored Friday,
Pittsburgh’s biggest problems have been with its middle relievers. The Pirates addressed that Friday by recalling right-hander Kyle Crick and selecting right-hander Richard Rodriguez from Triple-A Indianapolis. Right-hander Clay Holmes and lefty Josh Smoker were optioned to Indianapolis.
Crick pitched one scoreless inning Friday, with one strikeout.